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Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

Sunshine In A Shady Place
The little schoolhouse on the hill had its moments of triumph as well as its scenes of
tribulation, but it was fortunate that Rebecca had her books and her new acquaintances to
keep her interested and occupied, or life would have gone heavily with her that first
summer in Riverboro. She tried to like her aunt Miranda (the idea of loving her had been
given up at the moment of meeting), but failed ignominiously in the attempt. She was a
very faulty and passionately human child, with no aspirations towards being an angel of
the house, but she had a sense of duty and a desire to be good,--respectably, decently
good. Whenever she fell below this self-imposed standard she was miserable. She did not
like to be under her aunt's roof, eating bread, wearing clothes, and studying books
provided by her, and dislike her so heartily all the time. She felt instinctively that this was
wrong and mean, and whenever the feeling of remorse was strong within her she made a
desperate effort to please her grim and difficult relative. But how could she succeed when
she was never herself in her aunt Miranda's presence? The searching look of the eyes, the
sharp voice, the hard knotty fingers, the thin straight lips, the long silences, the "front-
piece" that didn't match her hair, the very obvious "parting" that seemed sewed in with
linen thread on black net,--there was not a single item that appealed to Rebecca. There
are certain narrow, unimaginative, and autocratic old people who seem to call out the
most mischievous, and sometimes the worst traits in children. Miss Miranda, had she
lived in a populous neighborhood, would have had her doorbell pulled, her gate tied up,
or "dirt traps" set in her garden paths. The Simpson twins stood in such awe of her that
they could not be persuaded to come to the side door even when Miss Jane held
gingerbread cookies in her outstretched hands.
It is needless to say that Rebecca irritated her aunt with every breath she drew. She
continually forgot and started up the front stairs because it was the shortest route to her
bedroom; she left the dipper on the kitchen shelf instead of hanging it up over the pail;
she sat in the chair the cat liked best; she was willing to go on errands, but often forgot
what she was sent for; she left the screen doors ajar, so that flies came in; her tongue was
ever in motion; she sang or whistled when she was picking up chips; she was always
messing with flowers, putting them in vases, pinning them on her dress, and sticking
them in her hat; finally she was an everlasting reminder of her foolish, worthless father,
whose handsome face and engaging manner had so deceived Aurelia, and perhaps, if the
facts were known, others besides Aurelia. The Randalls were aliens. They had not been
born in Riverboro nor even in York County. Miranda would have allowed, on
compulsion, that in the nature of things a large number of persons must necessarily be
born outside this sacred precinct; but she had her opinion of them, and it was not a
flattering one. Now if Hannah had come--Hannah took after the other side of the house;
she was "all Sawyer." (Poor Hannah! that was true!) Hannah spoke only when spoken to,
instead of first, last, and all the time; Hannah at fourteen was a member of the church;
Hannah liked to knit; Hannah was, probably, or would have been, a pattern of all the
smaller virtues; instead of which here was this black-haired gypsy, with eyes as big as
cartwheels, installed as a member of the household.
 
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